Suvarna Garge (Editor)

Madras Bashai

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Madras Bashai is a cockney of Tamil language and English language spoken in the city of Chennai (previously known as Madras) in Tamil Nadu, India. The word bashai derives from the Sanskrit word bhasha, meaning "language". Madras Bashai is a loose polyglot blend of Tamil with Indian English, Telugu and Hindustani language. Madras bashai has been largely popularized by autorickshaw drivers and fishermen from the northern parts of the city.


Madras Bashai evolved largely during the past three centuries. It grew in parallel with the growth of cosmpolitan Madras. After Madras Bashai became somewhat common in Madras, it became a source of satire for early Tamil films from the 1950s, in the form of puns and double entendres. Subsequent generations in Chennai identified with it and absorbed English constructs into the dialect, making it what it is today.

Due to immigration and cultural exchange, terms from Madras Bashai are also used sometimes in other cities and towns of South India.


Madras Bashai evolved largely during the past three centuries. Madras was founded in 1640 by the British East India Company, and with its emergence as an important city in the British Empire and as the capital of Madras Presidency, the contact with western world increased and a number of English words crept into the vocabulary. Many of these words were introduced by educated, middle class Tamil migrants to the city who borrowed freely from English for their daily usage. Due to the presence of a considerable population of Hindustani-speakers, especially, the Gujaratis, Marwaris and some Muslim communities, some Hindi words, too, became a part of Madras Bashai. At the turn of the 20th century, the Tamil spoken by the Brahmins of Madras city was considered to be standard spoken Tamil. Though preferences have since shifted in favor of the Central and Madurai Tamil dialects, the English words introduced during the early 20th century have been retained.

Madras Bashai is generally considered a dialect of the working class like the Cockney dialect of English. Lyrics of gaana songs make heavy use of Madras Bashai.


A few words unique to Madras Bashai are given below; an Internet project, urbantamil, has set out to collect urban Tamil vocabulary.

Words borrowed from other languages

In film

Madras Bashai is used in many Tamil movies after the 1950s. Actors such, Manorama, J. P. Chandrababu, Loose Mohan, Thengai Srinivasan, Janagaraj, Cho Ramaswamy, Kamal Haasan, Vijay Sethupathi, Dhanush are known for using it. Representative films are Maharasan, Michael Madana Kama Rajan, Thirumalai, Vasool Raja MBBS, Pammal K. Sambandam, Chennai 600028, Attakathi, Idharkuthane Aasaipattai Balakumara, Ai, Madras, Kasethan Kadavulada and Anegan.


Madras Bashai Wikipedia

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